News archive

August 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Standing up for Hen Harriers as the Inglorious 12th approaches

Standing up for Hen Harriers as the Inglorious 12th approaches

A momentous weekend is over and all the RSPB Liverpool group members should be proud of the Harrier twelve who stood, shouted and were counted supporting the Hen Harrier day in the peak district.

I should say weekend really, as it's the second Hen harrier day and it's evolving. It actually started on Saturday at 6.30pm - Hen Harrier Eve, in the high peak room of Buxton's Palace Hotel. 300 tickets were sold, 290 turned up and I was one of them.

There followed 2 hrs of speeches, conversation, videos and Chris Packham roaring. Mark Avery presented and introduced the evening.

First up was Susan Cross and Gordon MacLellan, who gave us a snippet from an Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and the green knight, Gawain set out in search of the green knight at the green chapel, and his journey took him to the Peak District - to put the local home of the Hen Harrier in context.(I admit a little complicated to follow at times, Olde English speak)
By the way I found a section in the pearl poet's account of St Gawain's journey a little closer to home, didn't speak well of our patch!

"till he neared the neighborhood of North Wales,
held all the isles of Anglesey on his left
and reached the river where its headlands rose
high near Holyhead, and held on across
through the Forest of Wirral. Few or none lived there
whom God could love, or a good-hearted man.
And he asked often, of all whom he met
if they could give him news of a green knight
or how he could get to the Green Chapel.

We were then shown the RSPB Skydancer video,

Followed by a speech from Mike Clarke, RSPB CEO, supporting the Hen harrier day (he came on Sunday as well with quite a few staff) enforcing the RSPB's determination to fight Hen Harrier persecution and remarking on it's battles with the' You forgot the birds' group ,batting against criticism, slurs and lies. His presence was applauded as the RSPB have been seen by some as sitting on the fence a little.

Mark Cocker, Buxton-born author, then stood up and gave a very interesting talk on birds of prey and are relationships with them. Culturally respected, symbols of prestige, worship, strength and loyalty. For example in history eagles and vultures were revered by the ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and Syrians, to the American emblem, St Johns eagle on the pulpit of your local church, native American headdresses, to the more sinister luftwaffe symbol. And now demonised, nuisance to grouse moor owners, killers of ...mmmh (

Next up Mark cocker again , this time in conversation with Turner Prize winner 2004 Jeremy Deller.

Remember 'A good day for cyclists' the enormous ringtail Hen Harrier mural, clutching a blood-red Range Rover in its talons. Deller a cyclist in London, fed up of being barged off roads by so called 'Chelsea Tractors, so he had a wee dig at the Range Rover driving fraternity. The hen harrier? Something to do with a certain member of royalty and Chelsea tractor driver who allegedly shot 2 Hen Harriers over the Sandringham Estate, Norfolk in 2007.

Another controversial image by Deller which includes a Hen Harrier entitled Monarchs of the Glen (Richard Benyon MP has an unexpected meeting on his grouse moor with some raptors)

Jeremy then indulged in a spot of fundraising, selling signed stamps for the audience to purchase- raised nearly 650 quid for Birders against Wildlife Crime!!

Findley Wilde followed with his video 'mash-up' showing the construction of his stone effect grouse butt which was on stage and reappeared in the quarry the following day. Findley is certainly going to be one to watch!

Another producer , another video, this time a video 'mash-up' of Henry's travels around the UK composed by, Phil Walton.(
) You may have been following his progress on

Last on was Chris Packham - the Lion of Goyt.
Another rousing, inspirational speech, starting with how he got into birds when young and linked this into the millions of birds that have disappeared from our countryside since then.
He referenced the usefulness of social media - google and twitter. 118 million pages on the recent killing of 'Cecil the lion' one of Zimbabwe's most loved reserve lions. Hen harrier day 2015 had 239, 000 pages but it will grow and hen harriers will become a focus for that.
"People are tired of animal life being wasted and particularly when that life is becoming increasingly rare"
"'Killing hen harriers is illegal. We are not here to voice our opinion; we are here to ask for the law of the land to be upheld so that this persecution stops"
"The type of shooting practised here developed in Edwardian times and they still want to do that".
"Shooting for conservation is an oxymoronic lie"
"Just like the hen harrier, Cecil was a symbol of something far greater, Cecil became a symbol of the fact the world has become intolerant of this sort of wastage of our wildlife"
"We're not going away because we're right"
"Lets cut the crap, shall we; those birds were shot, poisoned and trapped"
"I came here last year as a man, this year I came here with the rage of a lion, if you kill 5 more, you're taking on a tyrannosaur"

Next day I was in the Goyt Valley with the rest of the team. Sunday morning 9th August with, I guess 500 other folk.
We weren't really alone in our quest though, there were others as Hen Harrier events up and down the country. Down south in Dorset at the RSPB reserve at Arne 130 people attended their event. At RSPB Saltholme in Cleveland, 70 attended and were treated to a talk by David Lindo

At Loch Turret Andrea Hudspeth (Our Terry was there) reported 'Hen Harrier Day Tayside went off without a hitch and was attended by around 70 harrier fans from far and wide across Scotland. Despite the wet weather, our spirits were not dampened.'

In Dunsop Bridge, Forest of Bowland 90 or so people came to the day. Interesting- Terry Pickford believes the supporters mood is changing wanting more radical action, catalysed after the disappearance of the 5 male hen harriers, and may now be willing next year to disrupt a grouse shoot!

It was a warm sunny day, and rather than the sodden 570, we were more likely to be sunburnt and sadly cursed by biting insects that devoured those unfortunate party members in shorts!

The Goyt valley walk along the river is beautiful, however further up the slopes a large area of burnt, cut moorland was clearly visible, an ugly patchwork, on a spectacular vista, a pertinent reminder of another reason why we were there - the damage that is inflicted on our natural environment in the name of management.

We came with our friends, our colleagues, our families, our banners and even our dogs (poodles were popular!) and most importantly our hearts and voices.
And we listened and applauded

Jeff Knott RPSB:

"The more you try to silence us, the louder our voice will become, we will not rest until hen harriers fly free over England's uplands again, and we will never ever give up"

Mark Avery:

"2000 pairs of these birds missing from our land this is awful- the more that the public know about driven grouse shooting, the more the public will question it's very existence.

Jo Smith , CEO Derbyshire Wildlife Trust :

"We want to see these magnificent birds back here in their rightful home, dancing in the sky"

Chris Packham :

Hen Harrier day review

Tomorrow is penned the glorious 12th, and according to the weather forecast for Derbyshire it promises to be that. However I don't see it being a delightful or enjoyable day for the birds that are about to be slaughtered in their thousands. There is no glory or honour in what these people do.
As a wildlife lover and birdwatcher I cannot fathom how you can feel pleasure by killing hundreds of innocent, unthreatening creatures in the name of sport, oh what fun.

Latest news from RSPB Scotland reports that Annie one of the Langholme Harriers met her end, she certainly got her gun
"Post-mortem confirms hen harrier found dead on grouse moor was shot, we're appealing for info:

Our day has gone, but the fight continues, we will not stand idly by, our song is true and we'll win through.